Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Cooperating Teachers' Perspectives on the Student Teaching Triad

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Cooperating Teachers' Perspectives on the Student Teaching Triad

Article excerpt

Student teaching has been the capstone experience in teacher preparation for more than 75 years. Welborn (1920) noted that by 1920, one third of the normal schools placed student teachers in public schools. With few exceptions, the situation today is similar. Griffin (1989) concluded that student teaching was business as usual and that the triad of university-based supervisor, school-based cooperating teacher, and student teacher has remained stable over many years. Hierarchical decision making in student teaching is a particularly constant characteristic. Cooperating teachers are excluded from many decisions; university personnel typically influence decisions about the choice of cooperating teacher, the duration of student teaching, the requirements of planning and written work, and the final grading (Glickman & Bey, 1990). Smyth (1986) viewed hierarchical relationships in many aspects of public education as problematic Arguably the most serious issues confronting teachers are not matters of teaching technique, but impediments that exist because of power relationships (p. 146).

In this article, we explore the student teaching triad from the cooperating teacher's perspective. In our study, the cooperating teachers have views similar to those of the four male cooperating teachers in Barrows's (1979) study. She identified a hierarchical relationship among members of the triad, with the cooperating teacher in the position of most power and influence over the student teacher.

The Student Teaching Triad

Researchers have studied relationships within the three-person triad (Karmos & Jacko, 1977; Yee, 1968) and focused on the interpersonal dimension within the triad (Bain, 1991; Barrows, 1979; McIntyre & Morris, 1980) primarily from the perspectives of university supervisors and student teachers. Researchers have recently examined the student teaching experience from cooperating teachers' perspective (Koerner, 1992; Rothman, 1981; Tannehill, 1989).

Numerous studies of the relationship between student teachers and cooperating teachers (Kremer-Hayon & Wubbels, 1992; Lemma, 1993) exist. Researchers have focused on student teachers' perceptions of cooperating teachers (Kagan, 1987; Karmos & Jacko, 1977; Rikard & Knight, 1997), the influence of cooperating teachers on student teachers (Bunting, 1988; Yee, 1969), and changes in student teachers' perspectives, skills, or attitudes (Ellwein, Graue, & Comfort, 1990; Griffin, 1989).

Studies focusing on the relationship between university supervisors and cooperating teachers (Horton & Harvey, 1979; Tannehill & Zakrajsek, 1988) provide examples of how the former can train the latter. Hoy and Woolfolk (1989) concluded from their literature review that little evidence exists of cooperating teachers and university supervisors working together to provide a quality student teaching experience. On the contrary, Glickman and Bey (1990) and McIntyre (1984) substantiated conflict between cooperating teachers and university supervisors in their literature reviews. Koehler (1988) decried the lack of reciprocity in her relationship as university supervisor with cooperating teachers due to her inability to spend the time needed to build trust. Tensions have often existed between university supervisors and cooperating teachers for a number of well documented reasons. Researchers have written little about successful triads.

Lack of agreement about the roles triad members should play (Bain, 1991; Grimmit & Ratzlaff, 1986; Kauffman, 1992; Rothman, 1981) and lack of clarity about the goals of student teaching (Gallemore, 1981; Griffin, 1989; Marrou, 1989; McIntyre, 1984) may be reasons for the tensions researchers cite. Communication problems among all three members are also cited as a major source of tension (Bain, 1991; Kauffman, 1992; Koehler, 1988; Ryan, 1982). In one survey of cooperating teachers, the most common problems between cooperating teachers and student teachers were personal and related to communication (Sonthall & King, 1979). …

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